Monthly Archives: February 2018

Chapter Five: Love Me Tinder, Love Bytes: Book One

Chapter Five

“There’s not much to tell about online dating.” Sid savored another spoonful of ice cream from her pint. After she swallowed and licked her lips, she explained. “You create profiles on a few sites. Upload some pictures. Clean ones, if you want more than a hook up, and then sit back and see what happens.” She shrugged.

“I don’t have to do anything else? Is it expensive?” I frowned as I tried to do the math on my Milo-free budget.

“Eh, it’s not so bad. Maybe you can try one and that will be cheaper. Just commit to a single site.”  Sid licked the spoon and pressed the lid back on her pint. “I’ll eat the whole damn thing if I’m not careful.”

“No, if you’re not careful, you’ll eat yours and some of mine too.” I pursed my lips.

“Stop. It was one time.” She rolled her eyes before smirking. “As I recall, alcohol was involved.”

I giggled. “Yes, while I’ve learned to block better.”

Sid leaned toward me seriously. “If food is involved, you’d need to be a linebacker. Not much keeps us apart.”

“It’s not even that. You’re completely food selfish,” I noted.

Her eyes widened and she leaned back with her hand pressed to her chest. “What? Moi?”

“Yeah. Toi.” I laughed. “Or have you already forgotten stabbing Jayce in front of me?”

Sucking air through her teeth, she sank lower in her seat. “That.” Sid nodded and licked her lips. “In my defense…”

“You stabbed your husband with a fork,” I reminded her. “You drew blood.”

“I’d been dieting for thirty days. That was my cheat meal. And he was trying to eat the teeny tiny piece of cheesecake they’d given me at the restaurant.” She smiled weakly.

“That was the first time Milo met you. He was sufficiently terrified of you after that.” I laughed.

“Yeah, well Milo hates strong women.” She sighed, stood, and reached for my pint. “Want me to put it in the freezer while I’m up?”

“Sure. Thank you.” Then I frowned. “What do you mean? I’m strong. I thought I was strong, anyway.”

“You were and are.” Sid hugged me with an ice cream in each hand that had me shivering.

“Damn, that’s cold!” I jumped away.

“You think that’s cold, wait until you hear me out.” She strode into the kitchen and I heard the freezer open, then close. Sid appeared in the doorway once more. “You and Milo were never going to last.”

I swallowed hard and opened my mouth to speak, but no words came out.

“Let me finish.” She blew out a breath. “He needs a weak woman. He needs to feel strong and powerful because he’s not. Not in any sense. Not mentally. Not physically.” She shook her head as she came and sat beside me on the couch. “Look at you. He tried to break you to make himself feel big, but you’re still here, still holding it together. One day, you’ll look back and he’ll just be a speedbump from your past.”

“You think so? You think this will stop hurting soon? Because I really need this to stop hurting. And soon.” I nodded fervently.

“Listen, sometimes you have to take a wrecking ball to your life, so you can rebuild it better than before.” Sid laid a hand on my arm. “I promise your new life is going to be so amazing, you’ll be too busy to think back on this time.”

I nodded and inhaled deeply. “That sounds nice.”

Jonah leaned into the room. “I’m all done.”

“Thank you,” I whispered. Sid’s words had me feeling rather emotional.

“I guess we’re getting out of here. I’ll call you later.” She gave me a quick hug as she hustled Jonah out the house.

“I was going to leave her my number in case she needs anything,” Jonah complained.

“If I need you, I’ll be sure to reach out through Sid,” I assured him as I walked them to the door. Once they passed through, I locked up behind them. Slowly, I sank into my office chair. I’d slept all day and I wanted to go back to bed already. This wasn’t healthy. I knew what this was and as much as I wanted to give in and hide under the covers, I was going to force myself to hold it together. No way would I let Milo know he’d hurt me.

I’d barely finished my pep talk when my phone chimed. I glanced at the screen and saw a text from the bastard.

 

Milo: I see you had a guy over already. Whore.

 

My reaction was swift.

 

Me: What? Are you stalking me, creeper?

 

I glanced up at the monitor for the cameras to find out if he was somewhere in the area, sitting behind the wheel of his car, watching everything going on here. Then it hit me and I felt like banging my head against the desk. He didn’t have to stalk me. He would never be found on the street. He had the security app and could log in anytime to see the comings and goings. Finally, I sent a second message.

 

Me: Shouldn’t you be too busy with your new girlfriend to care about what I’m doing?

Milo: I’m just watching out for you, since you’re too dumb to do it.

 

My face burned. I wanted to kill him for every unkind word he’d used, but I decided to turn it on him instead.

 

Me: Sorry you left me for someone who can’t even keep you interested. Sucks to be you.

Milo: Are you serious right now? She’s twenty-three. She’s a stripper. And as soon as I find a place, we’re moving in together.

 

Once again, he’d managed to knock the breath out of me. I sucked in some air and typed furiously. He had just admitted he had someone else. God, I hated him for making me feel like I was less than I am.

 

Me: Well, that ought to save you some money at the club. Don’t you think it’s a little early to be moving in with someone you don’t know?

Milo: We’ve been dating for nine months. That’s plenty of time to know if we want to be together. Oh, and we do. In case that wasn’t clear.

 

I dropped the phone on the desk. Let him have the last word. He’d been having an affair with a stripper for nine months. Nine whole months of lying to me and dropping money down a g-string. Nine months of screwing some complete whore. And now, I knew I needed to go get tested. How could I even think about finding someone else if he’d infected me with herpegonosyphilaids?

Oh, how I loathed Milo. Though Sid had only been gone for all of five minutes, I felt like calling her back. That would mean Jonah came back too. No thank you.

So, I dropped her a text.

 

Me: Call as soon as you get rid of Jonah.

 

There was a decent chance he’d read that. It sounded mean, but I was too freaked out to care. Given my ankle, I couldn’t very well go pacing around, but I could go grab a drink to calm down. Hobbling out to the kitchen with my phone in hand, I received her reply before I even reached the counter.

Sid: Gimme fifteen. And thank you.

At first, I frowned. What the hell was she thanking me for? Then it occurred to me this was the perfect excuse for getting rid of Jonah. Knowing I’d hear from her soon made me feel infinitely better. Still, one shot wouldn’t hurt. Just a little something to take the edge off while I snooped. Nine months of lying about the stripper. I had to know more.

I grabbed the Crown and a glass. This would go better with Coke. Within thirty seconds, I’d made a nice stiff drink. Then I returned to my desk chair to search through Milo’s social media. He’d never been particularly smart. I say this even as I admit he had me fooled, but did he really? All through our marriage, I’d had my suspicions. I’d confronted him. In recent years, however, I’d kinda stopped caring. I’d started to build a life for myself apart from him. Was it because I knew this was inevitable? Simply a matter of time? Or was it because I was done too. Maybe I’d been done for years and this wasn’t the pain of loss I was experiencing as much as it was the bruise to my ego.

Soon, I had found everything I could and while I was still processing it, my phone began to ring. “Yo,” I grumbled into the phone.

“’Sup?” Sid replied.

“Milo.” I took a deep breath and admired how she waited for me to finish. Sid was a good listener. I…was impatient. “He has been cheating on me for nine months with a stripper.”

“Well, that’s…not surprising.” She sighed. “So, now what?”

I hiccupped and sniffled as I tried to hold back my tears. “I don’t know. I mean, first I’m going to the doctor.”

“Smart move. What else?” I heard her flop down on her bed.

“And I checked her out.” I laughed. “She’s so…cliché! She lived in a beach town, which is probably how he found her. He has been doing a lot of work down there lately. Contract for an entire school system had him there for weeks on end before he’d even come home.”

“Are you sure it was that?” she asked gently.

“No,” I pouted. “I’m not sure of anything anymore. All I know is she has this hot tight little twenty-three year old body. And he paid to see her naked. Fuck, for all I know he was paying for sex at first too.”

“Then this relationship has saved him a bundle,” Sid joked.

I chuckled. “That was my first thought too.”

“There’s something else you may want to consider,” she began tentatively. “Have you heard of this alienation of affection law?”

My brow furrowed. “Never.”

“Well, it’s one of those antiquated rules that gets dusted off periodically. I only learned of it on some Lifetime movie.” Sid blew out a breath. “Basically, if you can prove a married person left the spouse for someone else, then you can sue for that. He won’t get jail time or anything, but you can hurt him where it counts.” She let out a devious laugh.

“His balls?” I questioned.

“No, I think we’ve already established Milo doesn’t have any. I’m talking about his bank account.” She was quiet a moment, allowing me to think before she added, “And didn’t he earn more money than you do?”

“Yeah,” I grumbled.

“And didn’t you help him set up the company?” she prodded.

I sat up straighter in my seat. “Uh huh. All that and more. This never would’ve happened without me. I was the driving force. He did the grunt work.”

“Exactly. You can get him in court. You might want to consider this,” she urged.

I sighed. “I get it, but I don’t want some long drawn out court battle. I want to get on with my life.”

“Dammit, Randi. For the last time, it’s easier to get on with your life when you don’t have to worry about money.” She punctuated her sentence with a frustrated growl. “If Jayce hadn’t had the insurance policy, my life would’ve been so much harder. It’s impossible to work, think, even function while in mourning.”

“Milo didn’t die. Yet.” I narrowed my eyes at his picture on the screen with his arms wrapped around this teeny, tiny, curvy chick. “She’s not even pretty,” I moaned. I quickly sent Sid the link to her profile. I heard the chime in the background and knew she’d see it in a minute.

“That’s what Jayce used to call a butter face. He had an ex who was a stripper. He always talked about her saying…she had a hot body, but her face…” I heard her swallow hard, the first sign that she was still bothered by her loss even after all this time. “Listen, you don’t have to go after him in court. You just need to document everything. Use it as leverage. Did you find anything else?”

This admission hurt more than anything else. “Yeah. I checked his bank accounts. He hasn’t changed the logins.”

“What a dumbass,” she grumbled under her breath.

“He has been giving her about five thousand dollars a month for the last six months.” I rubbed my eyes. They stung, but I refused to shed another tear about Milo…tonight.

“Screenshots. Document everything. Tonight. Before you even think about going to bed. Follow the money first, then hit the social media. Screenshots,” she repeated.

“I get it. I know.” I closed my eyes and shook my head.

“He can erase stuff, but a picture is forever,” she murmured knowingly.

“Looks like I have my work cut out for me.” I stood and stretched. “I guess I’ll let you go.”

“Want help? I’m really good at this stuff,” she offered.

“Nah. I got it.” I stared at the screen a moment, my stomach in knots. “This could be cathartic.”

Chapter Four: Love Me Tinder, Love Bytes: Book One

Chapter Four

 

“Why are you up?” I groaned as I heard Sid sneaking into the bathroom at barely after seven in the morning. “You’re the one who drank, right? So, why do I feel hungover?”

She snorted. “Just lucky I guess.”

I heard the door shut behind her, heard the toilet flush several seconds later. She washed her hands, then exited the bathroom and peeked in my bedroom. I blinked at her a few times while I tried to get my eyes to focus.

“Oh, you’re up!” Sid giggled.

“Oh my God. And you’re pleasant in the morning too? Get out,” I grumbled under my breath.

“Sure.” She flopped onto the bed even as I tried to burrow back under the covers and bury my head in the pillows. “So, I have to get to work. I have to do this podcast thing today, along with the usual business stuff.” She rolled onto her side as she studied me. “Then I’ll return later today with Jonah.”

My head popped up. “With who?”

Sid smirked. “Right. Jonah always helps me fix things around the house. He was an old friend of Jayce’s and I swear he’s hoping to slide right into the vacancy that guy left, but I’m doing everything I can to keep him friend-zoned.” She stretched. “I thought you might be able to help me out with that.”

I must’ve had some dazed look on my face. I know for certain I didn’t respond.

Snapping her fingers, Sid sighed. “Miranda Jane, are you listening to me?”

My brow arched as angrily as I could manage that early and I replied, “Yes, mother.”

“Good.” She giggled. “He’s perfectly nice. He’s good looking. He has a great body. I just…don’t want to start a relationship with him like this. Weird, having my dead husband hanging over us, right?”

I nodded. “Definitely. So, how hot?”

“Huh.” She lifted the phone she carried with her absolutely everywhere. “Should be about fifty-five degrees today.”

I rolled my eyes. “No. How hot is Jonah?”

“Oh. That I can also answer with my phone.” Sid opened her photo app and began scrolling through images until she paused, loaded one, and lifted it for my examination.

“Damn, is he Italian. You know how I love Italians. They are my absolute fucking weakness.” I sighed happily. “So, what time should I be all dolled up, but look like I’m not trying?”

Sid licked her lips. “Seven. Think twelve hours will give you enough time?”

With a laugh, I rolled over.

“What are you doing?” she asked, sounding mildly annoyed.

“That’s so much time, I can even afford more beauty sleep.” I pulled the comforter over my shoulder. “You know how to let yourself out.”

“I do,” she agreed. “But who will lock up after me?”

I narrowed my eyes at her. “I kinda hate you right now.” With a moan, I rolled out of bed and followed her to the door. “Do I need snacks or anything tonight?”

“Eh, if you’re going to start dating, you might want to reconsider this being a dry house. You know, a little something to take the edge off isn’t a terrible thing.” Sid winked. “And no. I’ll bring Jonah, which means I’ll be leaving with Jonah, thereby relieving all awkwardness. You’re welcome.”

“And I’ll have better lighting.” I brightened some at the thought of installing those new fixtures.

“Yes, and a new window to see out of. Good times.” She reached out to hug me. “Have a nice day. I’ll be back.”

“Thank you.” I attempted a smile, but my face simply couldn’t pull it off this early in the day. “Later.” Then I crashed back in bed.

My bed was nice. Back when I had money, I’d spent nearly five thousand dollars on the mattress and box spring. If I let my mind wander, and wondered if Milo had slept with other women on this bed, it would ruin everything. If I simply thought about how I had something he wanted, my sleep was far more enjoyable.

This was why I woke around much later than I planned, feeling incredibly refreshed, until I peeked at the time on my cellphone. “Five o’clock? Shit! I slept all goddam day!” I bounded out of bed and realized my mistake immediately as I landed hard on my damn ankle. Once the shooting pains ceased, I carefully hobbled to the bathroom to get ready. Half an hour later, I was getting dressed and my phone rang.

“We’ll be there in about five minutes,” Sid chirped.

“You said seven! It’s not even six!” I shrieked as I pulled my shirt on over my head.

“Well, Jonah showed up early…”

I could hear all those words she couldn’t say because of her passenger. “So, now you’re punishing me?”

“Not exactly…” Sid laughed nervously.

“No. Not yet. Not ready.” I shook my head even though she couldn’t see me.

“Miranda Jane, you had all day,” she whispered loudly.

“Yeah, well I was asleep until thirty minutes ago,” I grumbled. “Some of us need more rest than others.”

“So, what do you want me to do?” Sid murmured with more than a hint of annoyance. “Again, I have Jonah with me.”

“And that’s why you’re so pissy.” I sighed. “Just…drive around the block before you come here.” I hurriedly worked on pulling my hair up into a wet, messy bun.

“You live in the country,” she complained. “A block is like…five miles.”

“Good point. Drive it twice. Bye.” Then I hung up.

By the time Sid and Jonah arrived fifteen minutes later, my nerves were frazzled and so were hers. In short, our night was doomed. “Alcohol?” Sid whimpered as she passed me on the way into the house.

I shook my head. “I haven’t left the house.”

“I don’t know how you live like this,” she hissed. “I’m gonna have to start carrying mini-bottles like I’m some lush. I’ll be back.” She picked up her purse from the sofa.

“Whoa. Where are you going?” My eyes widened as Jonah stood there glancing back and forth between us.

“You have a Walmart two miles away. I’m going to stock you up. You’re welcome.” Sid turned to Jonah. “I’ll be back soon. That fixture goes over the dining room table. These replace the flush mounts, and the one you’re going to come grab out of the back of the SUV goes in her bedroom. Got it?”

Jonah chuckled. “Absolutely, Sidra. Happy to help.”

She looked at me and rolled her eyes before waving and trudging out the door. I limped to the office to watch them interacting outside from my cameras. It felt a lot like spying, especially since Sid knew about them. I sank down in my chair and turned back to the monitor in time to see Jonah walking back to the house with the box in his arms and Sid glaring at the camera. I sent her a quick text.

 

Me: But I loooooveeee you!

 

Her response was quick and brutal.

 

Sid: You better. Enough said.

 

I was still giggling as Jonah rounded the corner. I’d gone from being married and perfectly comfortable around guys to being separated and being incredibly nervous. Without Sid as my buffer, I had no idea how to act around this man.

“Hi.” Jonah popped his head around the corner.

“Hi.” I waved awkwardly.

He grinned. “So, what if I start in the bedroom since I’m already holding this one and then I’ll install the rest.”

“Thank you. I appreciate that, Jonah.” I nodded while inhaling nervously.

“You’re welcome, Miranda.” He shrugged like it was no big deal.

I could’ve let him go. Yet for some reason, I felt the need to correct him. “Actually, all my friends call me Randi.”

His brow furrowed. “I swear I heard Sid call you Miranda Jane. Sorry.”

“Oh, she did. That’s her go-to when I’m in trouble.” I tilted my head. “I’m in trouble a lot.”

“Aw, you just need the right guy to help keep you on the straight and narrow.” He winked and slowly exited the room.

It’s probably just as well he did. I wouldn’t say I was in this man-hating frenzy, but I didn’t need a man. I hobbled to my bedroom as I considered some kind of rebuttal. Then I watched him removing one light fixture and installing another one. Fuck it. I give up. I needed a man. I frowned.

Suddenly Jonah glanced at me. “Oh, come to watch me work?” He grinned and I had the sense that he was used to women swooning over him. Sure, he was tall, dark, and handsome. Yes, there was no denying he had a fantastic muscular build. Still, he was an ass.

“Nope. Just checking to see if you needed anything before I start working in my office.” I crossed my arms over my chest, and did my best to remain friendly enough that he’d finish the job he’d come here to do, and standoffish enough that he wouldn’t try to hit on me. My life was a constant practice in balance.

He eyed me carefully for a moment. “Nah, I’m good. I’ll holler if I need anything.”

“Thank you.” I took one step backwards. “For everything.” Then I bowed slightly and returned to my office. I bowed. What the fuck did I bow for?

When Sid finally returned, I was still sitting at my desk holding my head. “Oh, it’s going that well, is it?” She glanced about to see if we were alone.

“Pretty much. So, you bought alcohol?” My brows arched as I waited for her to share the contents of the multiple bags she held.

“I did.” She sighed. “And then I remembered tonight I had to drive. “So, I also bought ice cream.” Sid pulled out several pints of Ben & Jerry’s and lined them up across my desk.

“I’m trying to work here,” I half objected.

“Yeah. Well, we can work on one of these together,” she suggested.

“Screw you. I’ll eat my own, thanks.” I huffed as I reached for the Phish Food.

“That’s my girl.” She disappeared into the living room and I could hear the fridge and freezer opening, followed by the silverware drawer. It was broken, so every time it opened the silverware clanged together and the entire drawer threated to fall on the floor.

I waited almost patiently for her to return with spoons. When she did, I grinned. “I feel better already.”

“Do you?” Sid handed me a spoon before plopping down on my office lounger. There was a loud squeaking sound and she giggled. “I didn’t do it.” She reached under her and pulled out one of Lucy’s old toys.

With this sudden reminder of my loss, I burst into tears. “Dammit. I’m sorry,” I whimpered as I wiped at my eyes and grabbed a tissue from the box on the corner of my desk. “I don’t know why I can’t hold it together these days.”

“You’re doing just fine. It’s okay to mourn, Randi. You aren’t supposed to be completely okay right now. If you were, I’d think you were some kind of sociopath.” She stood and moved to stand behind me where she began to rub my shoulders.

After blowing my nose, I glanced up at her. “Milo is fine with Lucy’s death.”

“We both know Milo is a sociopath. Point proven.” She hugged me around the neck for a split second. “Come on. Eat some ice cream.”

I shook my head. “I’m not hungry.” I blew out a breath. “Maybe it’s time to start working on my revenge body.”

“There’s nothing wrong with that. Just remember it’s not about him. It’s about you feeling good about yourself.” She eyed me knowingly.

“Sadly, I feel like I need this to come from the outside for now.” I frowned. “I need to feel attractive again.”

Jonah spoke from the doorway. “I’m done in the bedroom. Wanna come take a look?” He winked at me and I knew he’d heard our conversation which really made me want to puke.

“Right.” I could feel my cheeks coloring.

“Randi will go check while you work on the one above the dining room table. I think you mentioned you had plans for later in the evening,” Sid reminded him.

He shrugged as I limped past him. “They’re kinda open,” he murmured vaguely.

“Cool. Well, I have plans,” Sid lied. “So chop chop.” She redirected him to the other room while I peeked into my bedroom.

Leaning against the door frame, I sighed happily. “This is beautiful. I really appreciate your help with this. Money is tight and…”

“Please. I had that huge settlement. And then I had all those opportunities about handed to me after Jayce’s death, I can afford to spoil you a little.” She sighed happily. “If there’s anything I understand, it’s the importance of being comfortable in your own home and your own skin.”

I nodded sadly. “I want this more than anything. You wanna tell me again about online dating?”